VI. Life Ring

VI. Life Ring

A Chapter by Writer #00

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

VI. Life Ring


            Sounds came in and out, aurally dilating, fading and reappearing like the voice of passing traffic on a distant highway that was just on the edge of my hearing.  I was in a world between worlds, unable to process my present predicament.  I was drowning and breathing, the water converting to oxygen upon inhalation.  I was immobile and quivering, shivering from the cold and the warmth of these paradoxical waters.  Darkness and light brushed the surface of my closed eyelids, turning my vision into a quick burst of orange-red.

            Sleep.

            Awakeness.

            What were these?

            My eyes fluttered open.  Slowly, the world I knew came into view once more.  The waters of my nightmares, the viscous touch of kelp and invisible hands, they all vanished, as if seeping away into the recesses of my mind. 

            Trogon.

---

            My senses didn’t come in gradually.  They came with a push and a shove; a forced tidal wave barrage of salty smells and tastes, concerned tones and rushing waves, bewildered eyes and hanging hair, hot sand and a heavy, suffocating feeling of nausea in my--

            I sat up abruptly, bending over and coughing/heaving up a mixture of seawater and…the other.  The people around me--those who’d been at the beach playing volleyball, JJ, and Mrs. Diaz--all backed up to give me some space, someone immature (probably Sasha or Mill) let an inconsiderate “Ew, that’s gross” out at my vomicoughing.  I noticed two things immediately after I’d come to and dealt with my bodily functions:  1) Mrs. Diaz had been closest to me and 2) Kami was nowhere to be seen.

            “Are you all right?”  The usual excitement in Mrs. Diaz’s voice was absent as she asked this, her eyes swimming with worry, “Kamila told me what happened, and Jim-James here--“ she gestured to JJ, who was standing beside her with a lifesaver under his arm “--was the one to fetch you out of the water.”

            Even though I felt woozy and my feet were starting to burn from the sun-baked sand, I couldn’t help but snigger at JJ’s full name.  Jim-James?  Wasn’t that redundant?…like saying what color the White House is or naming a girl Elle?

            “Um…I’m just a little confused…” I mumbled in response, my eyes darting about the beach for Kami, “…and wet.”

            Wet.  If I hadn’t dried off yet in this heat, then I mustn’t have been out for very long.

            Mrs. Diaz smiled, her teeth perfectly aligned and perfectly white, in a way that reminded me of her parental status.  “I would imagine so, why don’t you skip out on the next training session and rest in the infirmary, okay?  According to Kamila, you hadn’t been in too deep.  You’d been walking and, once you got to a certain depth, stopped.  She hadn’t been sure what was going on or whether or not she should get help, but the next thing she knew you’d been knocked over by a wave and wouldn’t resurface. Jim-James ran into the ocean after you.  When Kamila came to me, she was out of breath and in tears, blubbering the situation and begging me to go down and see what was wrong with you.”

            “What’s wrong with me?” I asked, wondering if she’d actually made an assessment.

            “I’m guessing you had a moment of vertigo and, in that moment, you collapsed in a faint.  Thank God Jim-James noticed you.”

            “Where’s Kami?”

            “She didn’t follow me back, so I assume she went to her cabin--to collect herself, most likely.”

            It was weird talking to Mrs. Diaz like this; seeing her serious, protective and motherly side.  It was such a contrast to any behavior she had previously exhibited that I almost began to worry for her.  What was even weirder was the thought of Kami crying and not just crying, but crying over me.  It made sense--I’m sure I’d lose it if something happened to Kami--but she’d always been so enthusiastic and commanding that imagining her melt into a puddle of worry and tears was just...surreal.  That was probably why she wasn’t here now, I realized, because she didn’t want anyone to see their team manager the way Mrs. Diaz had described.

              Most of the titles and positions on our team didn’t mean much, if everyone was being honest.  You had your first and second (or, in the case of the pitchers, even third) for each position, but the numbers weren’t supposed to be a ranking (even though I was obviously the team’s bottom), just something for Coach to refer to to remember who he’d given what part.  But manager?  That was a serious title.  The manager was the tactician, the big-picture fate of each game.  With a breakable manager, what good was a team? 

            I suddenly found myself needing to see Kami even more than I’d wanted to before.  She was probably experiencing more pain than I for multiple reasons, and I felt it was my duty as her best friend to comfort her. 

            Without minding any of my teammates’ remarks (they were most likely along the lines of a one-lined ‘get well soon’ card or, if you were a joker, a little thing about the femininity of my having fainted) I gathered my clothes and slipped on my shoes (which were laying where I’d left them) and went to see Kami.  Mrs. Diaz was running daintily after me, reaching out and grabbing my arm when she’d gotten closer.  The HEAT from the many rings adorning her finger made me flinch in response, as if I’d been jolted by a cattle prod.

            “Where are you headed so soon?”  She asked, “I don’t know if I feel comfortable with you on your own just yet.”

            “I’m fine, Mrs. Diaz,” I assured her, turning my head to make eye contact with her, “I just wanted to thank Kami for--“

            “I’m sure she knows your thankful, sweetie, why don’t you come with me to the infirmary?  I’ll give you something for that vertigo…and you look a bit clammy, too.”

            I squinted in disbelief as I thought I saw a flash of orange light spark momentarily in the brown depths of her eyes.  She seemed to notice my speculation.

            “What’s wrong?”  she asked, “Are you feeling unwell?”

            Her newspaper hat tilted with her head as she watched me for any signs of illness.  Illness.  Now that I thought about it, maybe I wasn’t feeling as ‘fine’ as I’d been convinced.

            “I think I might be a bit queasy,” I admitted, the taste of salt and bi;e clinging to the back of my throat.

---

            The infirmary was like the Mess Hall in that it wasn’t actually an infirmary, as a matter of fact it was in the Mess Hall, composed of the multiple rooms that lined the upstairs corridor of the building.  A few of the doors were open, allowing me to see one room with hardly any light let in.  We past it quickly, so I didn’t get a glimpse of much more than the lack of furniture and vermilion break in the rest of the home’s color-scheme, but I did notice a large, shrouded box dusting-over in a shadowy corner.  It was more or less the only thing in the room, so it caught my eye like a wrong note would catch Chad’s ear.

              As she led me further through the house, down the hallway to what she referred to as the “nurse’s office” (which was really a guestroom refitted with cupboards and drawers of medicinal supplies), I couldn’t help but wonder if West was in one of these rooms.  So, I asked.

            “Oh, but of course,” Mrs. Diaz replied, her voice still devoid of that ‘tilde exclamation mark’ I’d imagined punctuated the end of her sentences, “we just past his room.  I check on him hourly.  It turns out he was beginning to catch a little fever.  He’ll be up and running again in a few more days, so don’t you worry.”

            “May I visit him?”

            “After we deal with your health, I’m sure he’d be happy to see you.”

            She let me lie down on a bed she had laying in the office while she took my temperature and fished her many cupboards for whatever bottles of capsules or syrups she deemed necessary.

            “Am I coming down with a fever, too?”  I asked when the thermometer beeped and she stood there, staring at the reading it gave.  I sure didn’t feel feverish.

            “It doesn’t look like it…you’re actually a bit under the normal human temperature.”

            I sat up.  “Is…that okay?”

            “It should be…is this normal for you?”

            I shrugged.  “I don’t know. I hardly get sick so I haven’t had a need to take my temperature in a while.” 

            “Good immune system, then--like a fisherman.”

            That was a strange analogy, and it’s one that got to me considering my theory of reincarnation.  Why would she have worded it that way?

            “Pardon me?”

            “Fishermen are out at sea early in the morning, late at night, in the wind and rain with all that cold saltspray hitting their faces. I’d imagine they’d have to have strong immune systems to take that every day.”

            “Or they could just dress for it.”

            She shrugged, continuing her search for medicine by standing on a stool and reaching blindly on top of the cupboards.  Her disorganization didn’t really surprise me since her attire was made up of random bits of clothing, but I can’t say having a disorganized nurse treating me didn’t bother me.  What if she accidentally gave me the wrong drug?

            “True, true,” her hat fell from atop her head as she stepped off the stool with a pharmaceutical bottle in one hand.

            I reached down to pick up the origami cap, something on its brim catching my eye: ICTHYES ISLAND.  The name of this island was in bold letters, headlining whatever number issue this newspaper was. She quickly snatched the hat from me before I could read it further.

            “Well, aren’t you the gentleman~!” Mrs. Diaz said, trying to paint over the nervousness in her voice with the plastic-sounding joy she’d exhibited earlier, “Even when you’re under the weather you help out a lady~!”

            “What’s the article about?”  I asked, making sure to watch the way she responded.

            Her entire frame faltered briefly, like a one-time light-flicker that you couldn’t be sure had happened, and then she happily replied, “Oh, you know, just some praise.  ‘XENOS FOUNDATION SPONSORS LOCAL SUMMER ICTHYES ISLAND RETREAT’~!”

            She moved her ring-riddled hands across the air as if they were following the letters on an invisible scrolling announcements board.  She flipped her ringlets of pale yellow hair.  “It made the headliners on some obscure newsletter in some obscure town somewhere.  Nothing big, but the acknowledgement still gets to a lady.”

            “Must’ve been nice.”

            “Yeah, I’m wearing it these two weeks so I won’t forget what a good thing I’m doing (after running through so much grant money, it’s hard to remember).”

            “Thanks for getting the grant.”

            She was more relaxed now, sitting on the stool and twisting open the bottle.  “Yeah, but I just wish there was more money left.”

            “Why?  Aren’t grants supposed to go to a certain project, not personal use.” I made sure to stare at her face or beyond her as we talked, avoiding the Pisces pendant hanging around her neck. 

            “Um…yes, but I’d originally sent in an application for two projects,” she tapped two capsules out onto her palm, “I told myself that if I only got enough money to fund one of them, I’d take the retreat as first priority~.”

            “What was the other project?”

            “Oh, just…a thing~.  I started it earlier in my life, but I reached a point when my funding ran out and I couldn’t finish it.  I kept telling myself I’d come back to it eventually, but once I married and gave birth to Dale--Oh~!  Do you two know each other~?  I heard you guys are in the same cabin~!”

            “Yeah, he’s a part of the team so I’ve said a few words to him now and then.”

            “Does he ever talk about me?”  Her tilde was gone again, her head tilted down at the pills she was to give me in a form of shame and motherly embarrassement.  I could tell by the softness of her voice that her relationship with her son was…complicated, to say the least.

            “I can’t really say,” I admitted, “We don’t talk much.”

            “It’s just…” her voice trailed off as her tilde materialized once more, “Well, why don’t we take care of you~?  Here’re are some antiemetics, for the nausea--“ she placed the capsules in my hand and walked over to the sink beneath the cupboards, filling a nearby (hopefully clean) glass with water, “--and here is some water to wash them down.  Swallow the whole~!”

            I accepted the glass and was about to pop the pills in my mouth when the rapid jangling of the doorknob startled me into dropping them.  Fortunately, they landed on my pants, so I wouldn’t have to ask for more, but there was something more troubling to me…

            “Why is the door locked?” I asked, trying to keep the fear out of my voice.

            There was knocking, now, too.  Heavy, desperate knocking.

            “Open up in ‘ere!”  An Irish accent. Felix?

            Mrs. Diaz sighed, getting up from her stool and walking over to the door.

            “I sleep here at night, so locking the door’s just an instinct of mine whenever I enter, sorry to worry you,” she explained/apologized as she unlocked the door, “just take your medicine, I’ll see what Felix wants.  He was leading a hike, so he probably just found out what happened to you and wants to make sure you’re doing okay, he’s very affectionate that way--it’s why I gave him the job as a counselor, actually.”

            Mrs. Diaz stepped aside as Felix came barging into the room and charging at me with tears formed in his eyes.

            “There you are, Laddie!”  he exclaimed, his voice choked with relief, “I didn’ know wha’ was goin’ on!”

            Oh no, I thought as I anticipated his next move.

            My insides rattled with unease as he threw his arms around me, picking me up to squish me in a chest-to-face, unexplainably uncomfortable bear hug.

            “I’m so gla’ you’re all righ’, Laddie!  Why don’ you get some rest back a’ the cabin’, eh?”  Felix said as he finally released me, then addressed Mrs. Diaz, “He’s abou’ done here, isn’ he, Miss?” 

            But the way he asked didn’t suggest he was asking.

            Mrs. Diaz forced a smile, rubbing the only ring on her right middle finger (which stood out because of how many she’d put on all her other fingers), “Of course, Felix, you came just in time~!  You’re such a great counselor, keeping up with your children so well~!”

            But the way she said this suggested she wished he hadn’t come.  And I can honestly say I understood that feeling.

---

            Felix’d taken me straight back to cabin 2, ignoring my requests to join training.  He kept his grip tight on my wrist, walking briskly down the forest trail with no stops.  Not exactly the way to treat someone you were supposedly “so worried” about.  I mean, couldn’t he at least let me walk without trying to crush my joints?

            “We need to get back to the cabin,” he’d say, “you’re not feelin’ well ‘nough to train.”

            “Yes I am,” I insisted, the thought of being alone with Felix in a small space sending shivers down my spine, “the nurse just let me go.  I’m fine.”

            “No, the nurse did’n’ jus’ let you go,” Felix countered, his hold on me tightening and pace quickening, “I let you go, Laddie!  So you cou’ rest be’er withou’ that creepofa nurse hov’rin’ over you.  Now please stop complainin’!”

            I gave up, obliging reluctantly.  When we came to the cabin, he finally let go of me, plopping himself down on the bunk nearest the doorway and letting out a long sigh.

            “Well,” Felix voiced, panting, “we’re fin’lly safe.”

            I sat down on my bed, not wanting to go to sleep (I’d nearly drowned not too long ago and I didn’t want those sensations to return), and puzzled over his phrasing.  Safe.  Odd word choice.  What was so much ‘safer’ about an open-air cabin than a properly fenestrated summer home?

---

            I don’t know what time it was when I finally became bored from pacing the cabin while Felix “slept”.  I put this in quotation marks because he looked asleep, he breathed as if he were asleep, and he even snored from time to time, but the moment I set foot out of the cabin, he’d say in a perfectly clear tone: “Get back in’ere an’ get your rest, Laddie.”  It wasn’t only annoying--I mean, what was he trying to be, my father?--but it was just downright inhuman.  So I’d taken to pacing, alternating between thinking about my theory and Kami.

            I’d thought back to the strange moment between consciousness I’d experienced before I came to.  The last thing I remembered, as crisply as if someone had spoken in my head, was the word: trogon.  Trogon.  My family is half Greek (my mom’s side) and half German (my dad’s), and since we got stuck with our dad’s last name, Gottringer, Mom felt it was only right that we all learned a little Greek (don’t ask me how learning a language is comparable to a name, but that’s the irrationality of my mom for you).  To be honest, I never really got the hang of it like Weston and Salem did, so I didn’t go past Greek 1, but I knew that trogo meant ‘to eat’, so I figured trogon was along the lines of ‘eater’.  Eater.  That hadn’t gotten me anywhere.

            Anyway, after a few ____ time of pacing, I stretched a bit and asked Felix if I could borrow his phone.  We argued for a couple of seconds, but I suppose he was too tired or something to really put up a fight and tossed it to me (boy was he lucky I could catch, or else his brilliant smart phone would be in pieces).  Yes, that’s right, a smart phone.  In other words: internet.  I felt empty not having Kami with me to research, but I knew that there was some information it was a paramount I clear up before…bad things--or, rather--worse things happened.  I remembered the touch I’d felt on my hips before I fainted.  That could’ve been the first move the angler’s wife made to kill this reincarnation of her husband.  I mean, why else would I’ve frozen up like that?

            I sat back down on my bed, sliding the on-screen button to unlock Felix’s phone and was met with a password keypad.

            “It’s locked,” I told him.

            “Ring.”

            “Um…”

            “That’s the password.”

            “Oh.  Thanks.”

            I hadn’t expected him to just tell me, but I entered it all the same and was able to begin my research.  The first thing I looked up was ‘the angler’s wife’ and got a bunch of links to cooking blogs.  Not helpful.  I searched a few more dud words, scrolling down the list of websites for anything that sounded remotely supernatural, then I switched topics, thinking back to the headline I’d seen on Mrs. Diaz’s paper hat.  I-c-t-h-y-e-s.  A bunch of stuff about fish (Icthyes means ‘fishes’, so I wasn’t too surprised….just annoyed).  I added island, and my results instantly changed.  I clicked the first link I saw which sent me to an online article labeled ‘Family Vacation Devastated: Father Drowns at Icthyes Island’.

            I gulped, unsure of whether or not I should read it.  I looked at the time.  Half an hour before training was over.  I looked back at the article and began to read.

---

            I tucked the edges of the sheets under the mattress so that they weren’t sweeping the floor and inviting ground insects to crawl onto them and establish residence in the bed.  The article had startled me so much that, the moment I read the last line, I dropped Felix’s phone.  I don’t know why, maybe because I felt as if I had to get as far away from that newfound information as possible, but, anyway, I cracked the screen and was seriously indebted to him.  I apologized a thousand and one times, then I offered to make up his bed, knowing it wouldn’t be equivalent labor pay for the damage I’d caused his phone, but hoping it would ease the awkward tension in the air.  He’d agreed, getting up and laying on the top bunk while I worked.  When I’d finished, Felix’d said:

            “What?  Are you really goin’ to only do mine?  It would be unfair if you only helped me out an’ let the others’ beds stay the way they are.”  So, I started with the one above me, Bobbie’s, and worked my way around the cabin.

            You’re probably wondering what the article said, aren’t you, since I made such a big deal out of it.  First of all, the family’s name was the Castillions--yeah, as in Rosa Castillion.  Now, I know Rosa’s family isn’t the only family bearing the name Castillion, but I still had the uneasy feeling of this-is-not-a-coincidence weighing down my gut.  Second of all, if you didn’t already get this, the island they were vacationing on was Icthyes.  Third of all, the family had apparently called 911 on multiple occasions, reporting hearing strange noises at night that ‘resembled the distant screams of tortured men’ and then waking up to find some of the men in their family gone.  By the time law enforcement arrived, most of the family had gone missing and the only body, that of the father, was found ‘meticulously wrapped in thick layers  of kelp--as one would a mummy--with skin having absorbed so much water as to make the age of the man hard to distinguish, were it not for his white hair’.

            Kelp.  As Mr. Castillion had been drowning, I could imagine the shadowy, phantasmal hands of the angler’s wife spinning the kelp around him to immobilize his body and prevent him from swimming free.  I shook my head, pushing the thought and its link to my dreams aside as I focused on smoothing out the wrinkles in Dales bed.  Other than Felix, he’d been the only one in our cabin to bring actual linen for sleeping.  Everyone else, including me, just set their sleeping bags on top of the mattress and used that.  After reading about the man wrapped in kelp, though, I thought about not sleeping in the bag tonight.  Too constricting.

            As I worked on Dale’s navy blue sheets, I saw quite the lot of little, black hairs.  I chuckled, thinking about Kami’s remark regarding my virtually nonexistent chest hair earlier.  If she thought I was hairy, she wouldn’t even want to see how much hair was on Dale’s mattress.  What did that even mean?  Was he shaving in bed?  Shedding like an animal?  As I brushed the hair onto the floor (I’d sweep it up later), I began to feel something harder.  It wasn’t drastically harder--just like a thin flake of something solid (I know, not very good textual imagery).  I stopped my action and sifted through his hairs (ew, gross, I’m aware) for the source of said ‘hardness’.  I found some shimmering flakes, tiny, fanlike panels, some the color of my eyes (a pale turquoise, if I hadn’t already told you…I don’t think I did) and others the color of well-shined dimes.  Scales.  Fish scales, to be precise, I recalled from my days of marine biology obsession.

            So he shaves himself and skins fish in bed, I thought, sweeping the hair and scales out the cabin, having now grabbed a tiny broom and dust pan I’d found in the lavatory, maybe that’s the secret to his great pitching, I joked.

            As weird as the possibilities for Dale’s bed being sprinkled with his body hair and leptoid scales were, it didn’t distract me for long.  Once I’d cleaned that mess up, the last part of the article ran across my mind’s eye, bringing with it the emotions that had caused me to drop Felix’s cell:


“Many reporters are baffled by the remaining family members’ decision not to keep the one piece of jewelry that had rendered his body findable.  ‘It is cursed,’ his wife told the reporters once they had left the island, ‘and it is nothing we want in our family.’  ‘You don’t want the very thing that helped us find your husband’s body?’ a reporter asked her, referring to the ring whose luster enabled a search party to spot him ensnared in the kelp, floating close to shore, ‘Won’t it serve as a good luck charm, or a memento?’ ‘I want no memento of what that ring did to him.’ ‘What do you mean ‘did to him’?’ ‘It is what led my husband to his death.’  Many other news staff have asked her to elaborate on that statement, but she refused, breaking down into sobs.”


            Below this is what struck me pale with shock: a photograph of the ring, which was disturbingly similar to the sole ring on Mrs. Diaz middle finger. It was a simple silver one, a band of blue stretching through the middle of it, sparkling like light on the crests of minute ocean waves.  The engraving on the band had been thoroughly cleaned, but small amounts of sea residue still lingered in some of the letters: tau, rho, omega, gamma, omega, nu--Trogon.



© 2013 Writer #00


Author's Note

Writer #00
Chapter 6 this is of SOS. Starting to see those 'strange events' I mentioned in the book description begin to transpire? I finished this on the later side of night, so my editing could have missed some things, even though I went over it. Point out what you feel like pointing out, I guess, corrections and suggestions--all the usual stuff. Thanks for reading, and hope you weren't largely unsatisfied.

Some notes for Chapter the Sixth:
You may have noticed the word HEAT in bold, this is so that it stands out to me. I'm not sure if rings heat up when being worn, so I assumed they did because they're metal, but if I discover otherwise, I want to remember to change the word accordingly.
"like saying what color the White House is or naming a girl Elle"-->the joke Harri is making is about the redundancy of Jim-James, as Jim is short for James, by using other redundant examples. Elle is the french feminine pronoun (equivalent to 'she' in English), so he thought naming a girl Elle would be overkill. Elle as a name, however, is not derived from French, but commonly used as a nickname for other names (i.e. Eleanor and Elaine) or as a first name of Norse origin.
leptoids--> a type of fish scale found on bony fish that harder and cane be thought of as a sort of 'fish armour' : )...think salmon.
Life Ring--> another name for lifesaver...Get the title?

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Reviews

The first paragraphs built a nice mood, ethereal and mysterious.

The rest of the chapter was even better - all of the mystery made me sit glued to the laptop, feeling the tension. Events begin to unfold, I can't wait to see more of the strange happenings that are about to occur on the island. I have some suspicions towards Dale and his mom, there's definitely something "fishy" about them.

Looking back from the new angle, as I made my way towards this chapter, I have to say that the events are quite slow at the beginning, maybe a bit too slow. There are a couple of long chapters separating the readers from the really interesting chapters that are later on. I wish I could say straightout that the introduction chapters were too long and you could skip them, but I can't; the story would lose some of its value.

Well, anyway, I'm glad I kept reading towards this chapter.

Posted 6 Years Ago


Writer #00

6 Years Ago

The first paragraphs did their job, thanks for confirming : )

Haha, you punned, you've .. read more
Clearly Mrs. Diaz and Felix know something that Harri doesnt. He is probably getting more than rest, probably imprisonment. I still want to know what's in the box but Harri is not gonna be safe. What else is out there cant be good! Im lovin the supsense thats comin up! Its good that Harri knows that Kami cried! I can only wonder what are the next dangers for Harri or how the rest of the team is doing!

Im lovin it


Im sure rings to heat up but that is if your body is warm and your ring was cold. Its the transfer of heat! They either heat up really quick or get cold really quick!

Posted 6 Years Ago


Writer #00

6 Years Ago

I'm feeling less original now. First LOST and now the X-Files?--both shows I've never seen?! I tho.. read more
Brandon Langley

6 Years Ago

Now that we've learned a bit more(or I have at lest) its a bit less applicable
Writer #00

6 Years Ago

Well, that's nice to know, though I was mostly joking anyway : )

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Added on July 11, 2013
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Tags: song, of, the, sirens, SOS, fantasy, recovery, retreat, research


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Writer #00
Writer #00

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I'm participating in the Summer Writing Project through Jukepop.com, an online serial website, those entering had to submit a novella on Jukepop.com. The finalists will be decided by the number of +V.. more..

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